Personnes déplacées et connectivites dans la province du Sud-Kivu
The Rural Development Institute in Bukavu (Institut Supérieur de Développement Rural de Bukavu, ISDR-Bukavu) in the DR Congo has published a special issue on protracted displacement in Congo’s South Kivu region and Internally Displaced Persons’ network connections in its journal ‘Cahiers du CERPRU’. The special issue Personnes déplacées et connectivites dans la province du Sud-Kivu (complete PDF in French) consists of a collection of papers that are written by the researchers of TRAFIG’s Congo team, and which follow TRAFIG’s five main themes. Their findings are enriched by four life histories of displaced persons. The special issue is further complemented with two articles by Congolese researchers working on related topics. The papers are based on research that was carried out in and around Bukavu, a city of more than 1 million inhabitants in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. For more than two decades, this region has been affected by instability and insecurity, leading to large-scale and long-term displacements.
You can dowload the complete publication here: Cahier Special CERPRU: Personnes déplacées et connectivites dans la province du Sud-Kivu.
The special issue starts with an introductory paper by Carolien Jacobs and Benjamin Etzold. The authors set out the figurational approach as developed by sociologist Norbert Elias and how this approach is used within the TRAFIG project. It then introduces the key concepts of connectivity and mobility in the context of eastern DRC.
The article by Carolien Jacobs lays out the context in which the empirical research has taken place. On the basis of a desk study, it discusses the legal and policy frameworks that are in place in the DRC to protect refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The paper provides an analysis of relevant international, regional and national hard law and soft law. It is argued that refugees enjoy more legal protection than IDPs. This is all the more remarkable if one considers that Congo is home to about 4 million IDPs and only to slightly over 500 000 refugees. Specific national IDP legislation is still being drafted, although Congo committed itself to develop such legislation through signing of the 2006 Great Lakes Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons.
After the two introductory articles, the special issue gives a voice to four Internally Displaced Persons: Mazuri, Albertine, Polepole, and Bintu. The glimpses into their lives enable the reader to better understand what it means to be displaced; to be forced to rebuild your live over and over again, and to be resilient. Their trajectories reveal the importance of networks, of mobility, but also the role of good or bad luck and how this can dramatically change one’s lives, despite a person’s eagerness to carry on. We are very grateful that these four respondents were willing to share their stories with us, and hope we are doing justice to their experiences.
All “histoires de vie”:
- Lubala, S. & Sifa Katembera, R. (2020). Vie de monsieur Mazuri. Cahiers du CERPRU, 28(27), 74-78.
- Lubala, S. & Sifa Katembera, R. (2020). Vie de madame Albertine. Cahiers du CERPRU, 28(27), 79-82.
- Assumani, I. (2020). Vie de monsieur Polepole. Cahiers du CERPRU, 28(27), 83-85.
- Assumani, I. (2020). Vie de madame Bintu. Cahiers du CERPRU, 28(27), 86-88.
Jacobs, C. & Milabyo Kyamusugulwa, P. (2020). Déplacement prolongé: Expérimenter et surmonter les incertitudes spatiales, socio-économiques et relationnelles en RDC. Cahiers du CERPRU, 28(27), 89-106.
The contribution by Carolien Jacobs and Patrick Milabyo Kyamusugulwa analyses in greater detail what it means for people to find themselves in a situation of protracted displacement. The authors analyse three different modes of living in limbo that IDPs experience; the spatial, socio-economic and relational limbo. Drawing on Elias’ social figurations theory, this paper argues that spatial, socio-economic and relational limbos are interconnected. They hinder IDPs’ integration into the city and sustain their situation of protracted displacement, but at the same time can also provide opportunities to break out of established livelihood patterns, social norms and expectations and be a catalysator for change.
Innocent Assumani‘s paper analyses the survival strategies of IDPs in the absence of formal aid, and looks into people’s levels of connectivity and mobility. It is argued that it is not just the quantity of connections that counts, but also their quality. Qualitatively strong connections are less likely to be broken, and can help IDPs to enter a chain of connectivity, in which one supportive connection can lead to another supportive connection, thus shaping new networks of solidarity and support.
Ruhamya Mugenzi, J. (2020). Dynamique sociale de la construction des alliances interpersonnelles et intergroupes entre personnes déplacées internes et communautés hôtes. Cahiers du CERPRU, 28(27), 129-156.
In his paper Joachim Ruhamya Mugenzi focuses especially on the way in which IDPs shape new alliances with members of the host community. For this, the author resorts to the social integration theory. It is argued that informal connections are more important than the formal ones in rebuilding people’s lives in displacement. The data and analysis that are presented in this paper do not only shed light on the experiences and opinions of IDPs themselves, but also on the perspective of members of the host communities. These two lenses enable the author to shed light on the inter-group dynamics in great detail. It is argued that current hospitality of urban residents towards IDPs can be explained to a large extent by these residents’ own experiences of displacement towards the countryside during the hostilities in 1996 which heavily affected the city of Bukavu.
Stanislas Lubala and Rachel Sifa Katembera analyse in a convincing way the contribution of IDPs to the local urban economy. The authors show how IDPs mobilise different resources in their communities of origin, and how they commercialise these resources in the city. Their findings contradict commonly held assumptions that displaced people mostly constitute a burden to their host community. Through their networks and mobility patterns, IDPs are able to contribute products to the urban market, which would otherwise not be easily accessible for the city’s inhabitants. They conclude that IDPs do not simply ‘seize opportunities’ (as one of TRAFIG’s themes is formulated) but actively create new opportunities which help them to rebuild their lives in displacement, but also enrich the local economy.
Lucien Wand’Arhasima and Valery Muhaya look into the rapid urbanisation of the city of Bukavu and the characteristics of the informal settlements that continue to expand in the fringes of the city. They make use of the theoretical approach developed by Damon (2017). In this approach, urban slums are not seen so much as poverty traps and ‘islands of misery and insalubrity’, but as spaces of innovation and imagination where opportunities are created. Whereas public discourse in Bukavu often highlights the problematic side of ‘anarchic urbanisation’, the authors argue for a more optimistic perspective which also looks into the potential of urban slums and which acknowledges that many people are able to do ‘more with less, or even with almost nothing’.
The eighth article of this special issue takes the reader on a trip outside Bukavu to look into greater detail at some of the – rather hidden – reasons for which people move to the city. Isaac Bubala Wilondja sheds light on the monopolisation and land grabbing of rural land by the elites in South Kivu province. Based on testimonies from people living in rural areas, the author analyses how elites manage to meander through the system of land administration in South Kivu at the detriment of local farming households, reducing their agricultural productivity, and sometimes forcing people to move. The author provides a number of recommendations to be taken into account by the public authorities in the current land reform project, in the hope that this reform will discourage land grabbing practices and restore land equity.
The final article by Carolien Jacobs wraps up the findings of the different articles to discuss the question ‘Is it possible to escape from protracted displacement?’ We will leave it up to the reader (and her/his level of optimism) to answer this question on the basis of the articles that are presented here. The concluding paper provides some indications.
This special issue’s contributions have paved the way to the writing of TRAFIG Working Paper 4, which summarizes the Congo team’s research findings on protracted displacement and IDP’s network connections: Jacobs C. et al. (2020). Figurations of Displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Empirical findings and reflections on protracted displacement and translocal connections of Congolese IDPs (TRAFIG working paper 4). Bonn: BICC.